Take Care of Yourself, Momma

Hear me out Mommas… I am now giving you permission to do one of the most important things you can ever prioritize. This is for all of you: the homeschooling, work at home, stay at home, work away from home, single, infant to teenage child raising moms:

You have my permission to “Let it go… let it goooooo…”

What are you letting go of exactly? The tightness in your chest. The gritting of the teeth. Holding it all in until you think you might explode. Being at your wit’s end. Having no time for yourself while everyone else is chanting, “Mom… Mom… Mom!!!!!” You are letting go of everything else going on for just a moment, dropping the dirty pans into the sink, and wrapping both arms around yourself in a great big bear hug. Doesn’t that feel nice? Now, before you release yourself, close your eyes and imagine one place where you can feel your calm. Got it? Good!

Now that you have permission to let it all go and have that place in your mind, let’s talk self-care for a moment.

The term “self-care” almost always takes me back to the days in which I would go with my Mamaw on her weekly visits to the salon for a wash and curled updo. No matter how tense her jaw might have been going in, she always came out with a pep in her step as she tapped the steering wheel to her happy thoughts. As a little girl, I wanted to be like her, minus the grandma hair and love for coffee; I wanted her calm. Later in life, I found that calm in the peace and quiet of being alone.

Self-care is not selfish. It is not taking time away from anyone or anything. Self-care is not initiated by anyone else but you. It is not understood, but is always needed.

Instead of thinking of self-care as an “adult time out” for corrective discipline, let’s think of it as preventative discipline before a time out is needed. No one likes a stressed out mom with a short fuse! If you’re honest with yourself, you don’t like being that way either. You can give so much more of yourself when your life cup is full. When you’re drained tired, burned out, and giving to everyone but yourself, your empty cup won’t quench the thirst of even the pickiest toddler.

Could you not think of a place to go where you can feel calm? Let me offer some suggestions in monetary order from cheapest (free!) to most high-priced:

  • Take a walk in the park and smell the roses.

    Yes, I’m serious! Bottling up some ice water and a snack from home, then setting out to walk across the Walnut Street Bridge can offer a great calming effect. Sure, you might feel a twinge at seeing the carousel and thinking how much your babies would enjoy riding that horse. But remember, I gave you permission to let it all go. In the summertime, the roses will be in full bloom. Deep breath in… Ahhh…

  • Have you ever been to a movie, without a child begging for all of the candy and snacks and giant cups of soda?

    All the while taking them on multiple trips to go potty during the feature? Yeah, that’s the opposite of calm. Instead, go by yourself! I have not personally done this, but it’s next on my self-care bucket list. According to a mom friend, she takes a blanket and pours on the butter to her popcorn while watching a movie that she enjoys. Alone.

  • Speaking of movies, name this movie quote, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” — Legally Blonde!

    Elle Woods was not a mom or wife, but she certainly had a good point. Working out in a room at home while alone, outside, in a gym alone, or in a group class can fuel you mentally and physically! It’s a win-win with exercise. Your self-esteem and energy can take a boost with repeated exercise. I’ve seen quite a few new group workout places geared towards women like the Pure Barre at Hamilton Place.

  • Lastly, and most lavishly, take a trip to the spa.

    Ask for gift cards on holidays for a manicure or pedicure. Budget a good haircut where you get a neck and shoulder massage at the shampoo bowl. My favorite spot in Chattanooga is Studio 59. There are zero responsibilities when you are in the salon. Coffee, comforting tea, and water are on tap and the music and lighting stays low. Being pampered by professionals fills up my cup to almost overflowing every time I visit.

Sometimes your spouse may not understand this need for self-care. Or maybe you’re a single Mom without anyone with whom to co-parent. Find a confidant, a Mom to whom you can return the favor. Also, keep in mind that some moms may need more “self-care timeouts” than you think are necessary. But let’s be fair and not judge those times of need. After all, you never know when your timeout is coming or life brings more lemon juice squeezed in your cup and you’re thinking “water, water everywhere, but none to make my lemonade!”

Self-care, it only requires yourself.

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